What country do you call home?
I live in Mississippi, in the US.
When were you first diagnosed with your illness? (And, if you’re comfortable sharing, how old are you now?)
Did you know you were ill before your diagnosis?
When I was younger, I suspected that something was wrong with me. I wasn’t taking care of myself or household chores, couldn’t keep a job, was addicted to video games, was very impulsive, and experienced mood swings. I knew that wasn’t normal. I decided to speak with a therapist and he diagnosed me with a “mild case of depression.” Last year, after I was formally diagnosed and learned more about the disorder, I realized that I had experienced various symptoms of Bipolar Disorder dating back to my teenage years.
How did your diagnosis make you feel?
Honestly? Receiving a diagnosis brought me relief. It explained everything I had been feeling and experiencing for over ten years. It helped me understand my behaviors. I always assumed that it was just who I was or that it was my personality. Knowing and understanding my diagnosis has helped me immensely.
How has it impacted your life? Your work? Your relationships?
It has impacted my life in various ways. My anxiety almost always makes it difficult to meet new people, make friends, be in a moving vehicle, walk into a room for fear of people staring, and plenty more. It has contributed to my past failed relationships with friends and family, and it sometimes contributes to conflict within my marriage. Out of the six or seven jobs I’ve had in my lifetime, I’ve only been able to keep one of them for longer than a year. I was fired from my most recent job in February of 2018 because I missed too many days of work due to my mental health (more specifically, due to my experiencing Bipolar depression and a couple of crises).
How have other aspects of your identity (your gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity/race) intersected with your illness?
As of right now, no other aspects of my identity have intersected with my illness.
What steps have you taken to get help for your illness?
The first thing I did was go to the Emergency Room at my local hospital. I was in a crisis and, luckily, I was working at the hospital at that time and was already there for my shift. After that, I started seeing a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and still see her as of today for my medications. I’ve been to therapy before but cannot currently afford it, otherwise I would currently be seeing a therapist.
Tell me about your support systems – the people who have helped the most (or the least) in your recovery.
My support system is rather small, but it’s better than no support system at all. I have my husband, a friend, and the mental health community on Twitter. The mental health community on Twitter helps me the most in my darkest days. I’m extremely grateful to and for them.
What do you use for self-care? (Be as honest as is comfortable, even if you’re not proud of the answer.)
The self-care methods that typically work for me are writing (whether it’s journaling or blogging), taking care of my hygiene, playing video games, and binge-watching my favorite TV shows on Netflix.
Walk me through a typical day for you.
As I’m currently experiencing a depressive episode, a typical day for me is fairly embarrassing, but I’m willing to share in hopes that it helps at least one of you. It’s okay to not be okay all of the time. After I wake up, I usually fix myself something to eat. Then, my day is mostly a mix of binge-watching Netflix, checking Twitter, and napping. Being fired from my job for my mental health made my depression worse, so I don’t remember the last time I took a shower, did a load of laundry, or even blogged (this one is unusual), but I do my best to sleep it off and keep on going. I hope you do the same if you live with depression.
What do you wish could be better about the mental health system in your country?
The mental health system in the U.S. desperately needs more funding and resources. Even if you have insurance, care is expensive and, in some cases, it can prevent people from seeking help at all. I’ve been experiencing a mild crisis for the past couple of days and the only thing that has prevented me from going to the hospital is the cost. We can’t focus on our recovery if we’re worried about the huge medical bill we will receive after we receive treatment. One thing I have done in my local area is set up two mental health peer support groups that are absolutely free to participate in. My groups are currently the only free resources in my area for people who are living with a mental illness.
What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with your illness?
The first thing I would do is tell you that while your diagnosis is part of who you are, it doesn’t define you entirely. My first piece of advice would be to research the diagnosis so that you can fully understand it. Then, I would suggest looking for resources to help with your recovery. This could include finding a therapist or Psychiatrist, support groups, and even the mental health community on Twitter.